HC Deb 26 November 1980 vol 994 cc418-9
2. Mr. O'Neill

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what effect the dismantling of the 10-college system of teacher education will have on the provision of in-service training in central Scotland.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

My right hon. Friend intends that in-service training will be maintained at its present level.

Mr. O'Neill

The House will be interested to know that this scheme is to be carried through. Many hon. Members feel that it is impossible for in-service training to be kept going at the present level when there are no regional facilities available such as would be provided by Callendar Park and Hamilton colleges. What provision will the Minister make for the regional dimension of in-service training? If he does not understand what that means, it is simply—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Even I understand that.

Mr. Fletcher

The decision on which colleges should be closed was difficult. My right hon. Friend took that decision so that there would be the best possible distribution of colleges throughout Scotland. The hon. Gentleman must know, that, even with 10 colleges, there are many parts of Scotland today that carry out in-service training and yet are many miles from a teacher training college.

Mr. Lang

Will my hon. Friend accept that there is some strength in the geographical argument of not having the colleges too concentrated? Can he indicate the consequence of the closure of Hamilton and its effect on in-service training?

Mr. Fletcher

The decision to close Hamilton, which is about 20 miles from Glasgow, was a difficult one. Nevertheless, it can obtain services from Jordanhill. Callendar Park can obtain services from Jordanhill and also from Moray House. As in-service training is best carried out in schools themselves and not in teacher training colleges, there is no need for in-service training to be reduced in any way.

Mr. David Steel

Is the Under-Secretary of State aware that after the last threat to close Callendar Park that college expanded beyond mere teacher training? It is a major institution for the region as a whole. I am not a Member from that region, but it is is obvious that this is a major institution serving the region and should be retained.

Mr. Fletcher

I know that there was some extension of the work done outside teacher training in all the colleges, but the primary purpose of the colleges is for pre-service training and they have to be considered as such.

Mr. Pollock

If the Government accept the value of in-service training, will my hon. Friend say whether he is satisfied with the present method of funding that in-service provision?

Mr. Fletcher

The funding of in-service training is through the rate support grant. Thereafter, the regional authorities are left to give it whatever priority they choose. If my hon. Friend has any complaint about the extent of in-service training in his part of Scotland, I can only advise him to take up the matter with Grampian region.

Mr. Canavan

Does the Minister recall that last February he gave a firm commitment to three Members of Parliament, including myself, and to representatives of Callendar Park that he would issue a consultative document before he came to any decision about the proposed change in the structure of the college of education system in Scotland, and that firm commitment was followed by a written commitment? Did the Minister forget to publish the consultative document in August, or was he simply telling lies to us in February?

Mr. Fletcher

I said in February of this year that we would produce a consultative document, as the hon. Gentleman suggests. I am not trying to avoid that commitment. It was, however, obvious to my right hon. Friend and myself during the discussions that took place that there could be agreement in principle that colleges should be closed but that there could never be agreement about which colleges should be closed. We had to take that unpopular decision ourselves.

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